What a joy it is when one has the privilege of having fond childhood memories! Recollections of happy times growing up that make you feel all warm and cozy inside, feelings of having been loved and accepted as a child. These can have a tremendous impact on making you the person that you are today.

I remember years of summer gatherings at our house, when relatives would get together for picnics. My mother would initiate these fun events, planning group games and relays, and even having small, inexpensive prizes as rewards for our efforts. It wasn’t for the prizes, though, that people would participate, but rather for the sheer joy of “being family” and for the opportunity to spend time together, sharing laughs and memories.

Winter-time was no different. Christmas was the six-month point for “kinsfolk” to again renew acquaintances and make new memories. Our house would be greatly decorated for the holidays, with a brightly lit and ornamented Christmas tree, a hand-painted, ceramic Nativity scene and figurines resting on a cottony cloud a top the mantle piece, a small Christmas village displayed on the bay window of the living room, and an HO train set gotten down from the attic and plugged in for a child’s pleasure and interaction. These events all gave me a feeling of belonging!

Some of my fondest memories, however, were those of family vacations, time spent “alone” with my parents and siblings, whether it be to the shore for a week, or extended camping trips seeing the sights and visiting new places. I always felt safe, secure and loved. I perceived that I was accepted for who I was – my parent’s daughter.

In looking back I realize that it was my mother and father who created these memories. THEY took the initiative to “reach out” to relatives, to open up their home as a central meeting place, to shoulder the main expense of these “get-togethers”. Camping trips were more a chore than a time of relaxation for them – planning food, buying supplies, packing up, sorting clothes, hitching and unhitching the trailer, setting and disassembling the camping site. For the parents it was more work than fun. Yet, they did it for the KIDS!

Now that I am a parent myself, more than ever do I appreciate all that my parents sacrificed for me. Family was important to them. And it showed in their actions. They helped to weave an unseen bond between my siblings and me. This bond is still real today.

Now, as a Christian, one who has trusted Jesus Christ as my Personal Savior, I know that my relationship with Him is to be first and foremost in my life. My second priority needs to be my husband and then my children, grouped together as my immediate family. Next to Jesus, my family should be my greatest support system. My spiritual identity is that of a child of God. My earthly identity is related to the family of which I am a part of, that into which I was born, and that into which I married. Our “fleshly” family is a visual example of our “heavenly” relationship with the Lord. If family relationships have been well established here on earth, then the heavenly perspective is more easily comprehended.

I feel that we do a great disservice to our children when we do not foster bonds between them as siblings. Too many parents, Christians included, fail to realize the value of such a relationship. Outside friendships, that of neighbors, church friends, support group contacts, do not always last. But that of family, united by blood, common bonds and experiences can be far-reaching. And what a perfect example of our heavenly relationship with our Savior and fellow-believers, united by the Blood of Jesus, with the common bond of furthering His kingdom.

Memories can go far in fostering this sibling bond and family loyalty. Parents would be wise in establishing traditions and making every effort to see that they are carried out year after year. Whether it be for holidays, birthdays, or vacations, traditions also enhance a feeling of security and belonging. They tell a child that they are important and loved enough to do that which brings them happiness.

When a child knows what to expect, as with a birthday ritual of going out to dinner with mom and dad, one on one; a Christmas tradition of reading the Christmas story the night before as a feast of holiday bread and hot chocolate is shared; week-long summer camping trips, or weekend excursions to historical sites, are all ways to give a child stability in anticipation of what they know “always happens” because they are YOUR child and loved for who they are – your son or daughter! “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it”, isn’t necessarily a bad saying, when used in terms of a parent’s show of love.

As homeschooling mothers, and being with our children 24/7, we have a tremendous opportunity to establish memories. As we participate in family devotions and Bible study together, perform group science experiments, put together history projects, and take advantage of family field trips, we are establishing “table talk”, “mental snapshots” to be shared at family get-togethers, long after the kids are grown and with families of their own. We have taken the “sense of belonging” beyond that of holidays and traditions. As stay-at-home moms, who have seriously taken the God- given responsibility to also be our child’s personal, full-time, academic instructor, we are also telling our children, by our actions, that they are important to us, and are worth investing our time and effort.

I pray that I can pass on to my children what my parents provided for me, that of a loving and stable family. I hope that my actions in my “ministry of mothering” go far in establishing a sense of belonging and acceptance to them just for who they are – my sons and daughters! And in doing so, if this can help them to better see the Savior as a loving God who died for them, purely for love, then my life as a mother has been well worth living.

Maribeth Spangenberg is a homeschool mother of nine, whom she and her husband, Steve, have always educated at home. Her three oldest children have graduated from homeschool highschool. She continues to teach her remaining children at home.

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